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The Biggest Problem with Being Stuck at Home

The Biggest Problem with Being Stuck at Home | THINKERS Notebook

Social distancing.

Self-quarantining.

Working from home.


These are a few of the phrases that defined March 2020 across the globe, and especially here in the U.S. 

At this point, there are no reasonable arguments against these strategies being essential right now in our quest to slow down the spread of Covid-19. I'm sure you agree.

But it's also fair to point out -- without questioning the immediate need for the practices themselves -- just how much is lost by so many of us being confined to our homes.

The macroeconomic impact is the most obvious and concerning collateral damage. And most everyone seems clear-eyed about the severity of it, even if there are a wide variety of arguments for how to combat it.

What can often get lost, however, are the micro impacts of our daily isolation, which can impact our thinking, our mood, and even our ability to adapt to our new work reality.

Consider my wife, for example. 

While I have worked from home for almost a decade now, and am used to it, she has worked in a traditional corporate environment for her entire career. 

She is used to the daily rhythms of commutes and in-person meetings. She is used to being able to physically walk over to someone, or having someone walk over to her, to address a question or concern or even just chit-chat for a minute or two.

Transitioning an entire company of people with that mindset to remote work overnight is a major challenge.

Since she and I now share the same home office, I can see firsthand how she and her team are working hard to make the best of the transition ... but I can also see when the frustration and uncertainty of how to make it work start to bubble over.

As she explained to me, you can't just recreate in-person collaboration and training on Zoom or Slack. Maybe you can if you and the people you work with are used to remote work, but you sure as heck can't do it in two weeks with people who are not.

She's right (as usual). 

And I think it's important at a time like this to recognize and be candid about what's missing, and about what the limitations of remote work and life are, so that we can do everything possible to mitigate all of these little micro issues throughout the day.

Because they add up to something substantial, and we'll never ameliorate problems that we don't recognize or admit.

Another example: yesterday's virtual happy hour that we hosted inside of the THINKERS Workshop.

One of the biggest deficiencies we experience in isolation is a reduced exposure to perspectives that are different from our own. This is why getting a diverse group of people together from inside of the community was so beneficial.

 

  • We shared book recommendations.
  • We talked about what we do and how we arrived at our current positions in our careers.
  • We commiserated about how the pandemic is affecting each of our lives.
  • We had an in-depth conversation about the erosion of our national identity. (Not everyone present may have agreed, but everyone sure listened.)
  • We even talked about the THINKERS Notebook and App ... and Robb used a line that I am absolutely stealing for future marketing copy! "If I lose my notebook, I never lose my ideas."


All of this exposure to different perspectives and different ideas -- in just one hour with a group of 10 people. So much value for everyone involved that would have been lost without the opportunity to come together.

I learned more in that hour than I did the entire rest of the day working on my own. 

And it's so important in times like these to recognize the compounding lost value of these missed interactions with other people.

The science is pretty clear now that loneliness can have a negative impact on our health and happiness; but we also shouldn't forget the negative impact that isolation can have on our ability to think creatively and empathetically.

Which means that we need to make time and make the effort to keep exposing ourselves to other people's perspectives.

 

  • Maybe it's reading books.
  • Maybe it's joining an online community.
  • Maybe it's watching a documentary.
  • Maybe it's attending a virtual happy hour.
  • Maybe it's calling an old friend. 
  • Maybe it's broaching a new topic with someone you live with so that you can gain new perspectives on different topics even from the same people.
  • Maybe it's ... on and on and on.


The accessibility of reliable technology means that there is no shortage of ways to continue interacting with others, and to continue experiencing different perspectives, even while we are confined to our homes.

So that's the big idea this week: be upfront with yourself about what's missing in your new reality, and then do your best with the tools you have available to replace it in the best way you're able.

We'll never replace the depth and power of in-person communication with a video call. And a virtual happy hour can't recreate the energy and camaraderie of an in-person happy hour.

But we can strive to keep connecting in the best ways we're able.

Our work, our health, and our thinking -- and in turn, our society as a whole -- will all be better for it.


In this week's THINKERS Roundup, you will find three links to resources about the importance of experiencing different perspectives and how to do it when you're stuck at home.

But first, a quick recap of five new videos that were posted inside of the THINKERS Workshop this week ...

This Week in the THINKERS Workshop


On Monday, Sean and I hosted an informal video chat during which we explained a few key takeaways from two books we read recently.

To watch the replay of that video chat, click: Why We Become Riveted and How to Become Indistractable.

Also, Sean has been posting a series of video monologues discussing how to make the most of crisis situations by discovering new opportunities that others might be overlooking.

Each of the four videos is short and insightful. 

 

  • Part One: How crisis situations provide new opportunities and what you should be doing right now to prepare for them.
  • Part Two: How to quickly become educated on any market you want to participate in.
  • Part Three: A simple technique that will improve your ability to find opportunities by being in the right place at the right time with the right people.
  • Part Four: The two essential skills THINKERS use to determine the best opportunity for them. 

***


The THINKERS Workshop costs $99 per year to be a member. If you own a THINKERS Notebook, you get full access for free. (If you do own a notebook but haven't activated your free access yet, reply to this email and let me know. We'll get you set up.)
 



Now on to this week's links ...

By learning more about others, we learn more about ourselves


There are over 7.5 billion people in the world today and every one of us thinks in a different way.

Sure there are people that have similar view points. It’s why we are able to gather around particular causes. But at their core, we do things for different reasons.

It’s this particular fact that has gotten me so interested in people and found a deeper appreciation for people.

It was through that fact as well that I learned a valuable lesson.

That lesson being that we need to appreciate the differences in perspective and therefore people.

In fact, by embracing these differences we can better learn ourselves in ways we can’t imagine on our own.


Read: Why A Difference In Perspective Can Help You Understand Yourself (Eric Burdon)

More perspectives lead to better ideas


The fact is that if you want to build teams or organizations capable of innovating, you need diversity.

Diversity enhances creativity. It encourages the search for novel information and perspectives, leading to better decision making and problem solving. Diversity can improve the bottom line of companies and lead to unfettered discoveries and breakthrough innovations. Even simply being exposed to diversity can change the way you think.

This is not just wishful thinking: it is the conclusion I draw from decades of research from organizational scientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists and demographers.


Read: How Diversity Makes Us Smarter (Scientific American)

You may be at home, but you don't have to be (or feel) alone 


1. Reimagine commute time

Sweet, now that everyone is remote you can roll straight from bed into work! Not quite. You don’t have to commute to and from work at the moment, but you can reimagine this time.

Schedule “coffee” with a different team member during your former car-ride or subway-schlep time each morning and take this time to catch up over the phone, video call, or even text chat. Get your team to sign up for coffee talks with each other and create a solid rotation throughout the whole office. You’ll gain social time, mentorship, different perspectives, and regain some of the spontaneous conversations that are lost in remote working.

You can reimagine your commute home as well… There’s no risk of drinking and driving when there’s no actual drive. May we suggest grabbing a quarantini with some coworkers over a video call?


Read: 9 Creative Ways to Stay Connected to Your Coworkers When You're All Working From Home (The Muse)
 



Quote of the week


“It is a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject from various points of view.”

-- George Eliot

 

Jerod Morris
Chief Creative Thinker
THINKERS Notebook

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

 

A Florida Man did ... what?

A Florida Man did ... what? | THINKERS Notebook
Fellow thinker,

I don't know exactly where you are or what your day will be like when you open this email.

But given the current global pandemic so many of us are in the midst of fighting, I do feel safe in assuming that you've spent more recent time interacting with bad news than good news.

And that's understandable.

 
  • It's important to stay up to date about how the disease is spreading and the impact it's having on the healthcare system ... even if doing so can be harrowing.
  • It's important to keep up with the politics, even if doing so can be maddening. 
  • It's important to keep up with the economic impact, even if doing so can be worrisome.

But it's also important to be realistic about how much harrowing, maddening, and worrisome news you can handle.

I had a boss once, his name was Mike, who always used to say, "Jerod, your brain is like a computer. The input determines the output."

Mike had a good point.

If all we do is pump ourselves full of harrowing, maddening, and worrisome news and information, then our thoughts, words, and actions are more likely to reflect a harrowing, maddening, and worrisome mindset.

Which, to be fair, isn't totally bad given the current circumstances.

In a recent newsletter, we discussed the negative ramifications of Optimism Bias, especially as it relates to our health. Cleary this is no time for burying our heads in the sand and pretending like everything is fine.

But it is a time when it might be useful for us to occasionally seek out positive stories that can provide an important counter to all the conversation about crisis and calamity.

Reading stories that highlight examples of magnanimity within the madness can help us maintain a healthy, balanced perspective about our current plight. 

"The input determines the output."

So for this week's roundup, I've collected four stories that describe small acts of heroism and humility.

These stories serve as reminders of the power we each have as individuals to make a difference, and the importance of never forgetting that our shared sense of humanity is what must undergird our collective action to get through the trials and tribulations of today.

Plus, it seems like everyone could use a dose or two of positivity. I know reading these stories perked me up. They freshened my thinking. I hope they will do the same for you.

And the first story is about Florida Man.

But it's not the kind of "Florida Man" story you might be expecting ...

 
Restaurant workers are feeling the pinch as more people are staying home to avoid exposure to coronavirus.

One diner in Florida wanted to help out so he left a tip massive enough for one restaurant’s entire staff to share. Leaving ten thousand dollars behind by a regular diner at Skillets.

“And he said ‘I want each person in this restaurant to get 500 dollars. The manager distributed it to all the employees,” Restaurant owner Ross Edlund said.

“People come in and they become family. We know where they are from, we know how many kids they have, and we know what’s going on in their lives. They become a part of our team, a part of our restaurant,” Edlund said.

...

The restaurant’s owner looks on the bright side because acts of kindness are spreading in the community.

“It’s not the greatest situation, but if we don’t put a positive spin on it, we’re just going to make things worse. It makes me feel like we are doing more than just serving eggs and pancakes. That we’re offering a respite from the world,” Edlund said.

Edlund says he knows the man who left the tip — but he’s respecting his wishes to remain anonymous.

“Thank you very, very much. You are a really decent person, and you have touched our staff deeply. Thank you.”


Decency and kindness never cease to be important. In times like these, they are essential. 

In this week's THINKERS Roundup, you will find three more links to stories of decency and kindness during difficult times.

But first, there are two live online events coming up next week inside of the THINKERS Workshop that I am excited to invite you to ...

This Week in the THINKERS Workshop


Over the past handful of weeks, I've provided links to some of the many educational resources available inside of the THINKERS Workshop.

But the education library is just one half of what makes the THINKERS Workshop a special online spot to belong to. The other half is the community, which grows by the week, filled with people just like you who are taking steps to improve the way they think.

And coming up this week, we have two live online events that we hope you will make time to join us for.

First, on Monday (March 30th) at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time, THINKERS Notebook founder Sean Jackson and I will host a live webinar and Q&A. We've both read interesting books recently, and we want to share some of our takeaways.

​If you can't attend this event live, we'll post a replay after. If you want to leave a question ahead of time, do so in the comments on the event page.

To RSVP, get the Zoom link, or leave a question, visit the event page: 

Live Webinar and Q&A: Why We Become Riveted and How to Become Indistractable​

Then, on Wednesday (April 1st) at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time, the entire THINKERS Notebook team will host a live virtual happy hour. 

The way it works, if you've never participated in one of these, is that I'll open my private Zoom Room and anyone with the link can attend. Your video and audio will broadcast to everyone else in the room, and we will get to know each other a bit and toss around a few fun, interesting discussion questions.

Note that you don't need to bring a drink to make it a happy hour, but you do need to bring a friendly attitude and an openness to connect with other like-minded folks from here inside the community.

To RSVP and get the Zoom link, visit the event page:

The First-Ever THINKERS Workshop Virtual Happy Hour!

We hope to see you at one or both of these events. If you have any questions, please hit reply on this email and let me know.


***


The THINKERS Workshop costs $99 per year to be a member. If you own a THINKERS Notebook, you get full access for free. (If you do own a notebook but haven't activated your free access yet, reply to this email and let me know. We'll get you set up.)
 



Now on to this week's links ...

Community comes together to help protect healthcare workers


Volunteer mask-makers answered a call out by Salem Health in droves Thursday, creating a miles-long traffic jam at a distribution site at Mission and 25th streets.

It was only Wednesday evening when Salem Health asked for help in making 10,000 masks for medical workers. By 11:30 a.m. Thursday, cars were lining up for a 1 p.m. pick up at the Mission Street site of the former Kmart.   They were quickly told kits had run out.

Traffic was backed up for miles. As it got worse, some took to parking their cars nearby and walking, but only a few were able to get kits this way before police officers stepped in.

"We didn't expect such a wonderful response," one Salem Health employee told a driver when she finally made it to the front of the line.


Read: Salem Health runs out of kits to make face masks in minutes after asking for help (Statesman Journal)

A 2-for-1 story of generosity


Reeves was busy loading orders for curbside pickup and delivery from the restaurant, which serves Sicilian and Southern-Italian food, as well as New York-style pizza, when he opened the envelope to find $2,000 in cash along with a note.

"Hi there, As a neighbor and lover of Rosa's, please accept the enclosed and use it as you see fit for your staff," the anonymous customer wrote.

"The hairs on my arm literally stood up," Reeves told Fox News. "I was just so touched with all the craziness going on."

...

Now, Reeves is asking employees to bring him the bill that stresses them out the most and he will use this money, along with his personal funds, to pay them.


Read: Arizona pizzeria gets $2,000 from anonymous customer, owner uses it to pay staff's most urgent bills (Fox News)

The sweet sounds of kindness help combat isolation for many


Residents of the Altenheim Senior Health Care Community had a special guest Wednesday afternoon, even though nursing homes are closed to outside visitors.

Matthew Lane teaches violin and owns the local shop Lane & Edwards Violins. Instead of spending the day cooped up inside, he set up his stand with stacks of sheet music in front of the Altenheim and played music for the residents.


Read: Violinist plays outside Louisville nursing home to lift residents' spirits (WDRB)
 



Quote of the week


"The level of our success is limited only by our imagination and no act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted."

-- Aesop

 
Photo by Dan Smedley on Unsplash

Is Regret Avoidance Helping or Hurting Your Decisions?

Is Regret Avoidance Helping or Hurting Your Decisions? | THINKERS Notebook
Regret sucks.

We can all agree on that, right?

It's why some variation of "living a life without regret" is often stated by people as a life goal.

It's also why one of the decision-making heuristics I rely on the most when faced with a difficult choice is: which decision am I likely to regret the most if I make it?

In fact, this came up last night when my wife and I were discussing whether we should take our daughter in preschool today or keep her home after seeing that the city of Dallas (where we live) had declared a state of emergency due to a handful of new confirmed cases of COVID-19.

As I often do, I immediately jumped to my comfortable regret avoidance heuristic:

 
  • On the one hand, I could absolutely foresee regretting taking her to school if she got sick and then possibly infected me or my wife or, even worse, one of our parents (who are the high-risk age group). Even if it's a small chance, the potential for significant regret seemed quite large.
  • On the other hand, keeping her home would make it a little harder for me to focus on getting work done (note: I work from home regularly) and would probably result in more TV time than I'm typically comfortable with. In this case, the likelihood for that regret seemed quite high, but the intensity of the regret would be small.

We ultimately decided to keep her home. Balancing the potential regret weighed heavily in our decision.

Was it the right decision? I don't know. There really isn't a way to know for sure. But I do know that viewing it through the prism of potential regret allowed me to make the decision and move forward without any ... ahem ... regrets, or second thoughts.

But here is something that I didn't consider, which I've since learned since sitting down to do the research for this week's newsletter ...

Using regret avoidance to aid in decision-making isn't the bulletproof heuristic I've always assumed that it is. And the main reason for this is the cognitive biases it introduces into our decision-making, on of which is known as loss avoidance.

Loss avoidance leads us to take a position or make a choice in an effort to ensure that losses do not occur. And you can see it quite clearly in the reasoning I used in my example above.

I framed the entire question as a way to avoid losing my daughter's current good health. And this meant that my entire decision-making process was biased toward doing what would avoid this undesirable potential outcome.

If I'm being honest with myself, the decision-making deck was pretty much stacked before I even started playing the hand. It's important to note: this doesn't necessarily mean that I made the wrong decision, but it does mean that my logic wasn't as comprehensive and complete as I may have assumed.

If I remove the loss avoidance from the equation, or simply try to balance it with the opposing perspective, I would have also weighed the potential positive outcomes of her going to school:

 
  • She would have had another day of fun with her friends.
  • She would have gotten social interaction and instruction rather than a day of just solo play and watching
    Finding Nemo.
  • I would have gotten a day of quiet at the house, which would have undoubtedly led to more focus and more productivity.


There are probably others, and they are all meaningful bullet points to consider when making the decision. But I didn't. Because as soon as I entered regret avoidance into my thought process, it dominated the discussion. This happens to all of us, in varying degrees.

So, given everything that I just wrote, if I step outside of the reinforced walls of regret and try to execute a more balanced decision-making process, would I have done anything differently?

In this case, no.

I still think keeping my daughter home today, and maybe for the next few weeks, is the right decision. The potential positives don't outweigh the potential negatives, at least in my own personal calculus.

But I am absolutely now more mindful of just how big of a blind spot I had framing the decision solely within the context of regret. It's something I'm going to really try to keep in mind moving forward, because the next regret-focused decision I make might not stand up to closer scrutiny like this one did.

Below, you will find three links to additional resources that will give you different perspectives on how regret can impact your decision-making.

But first a quick update from inside the THINKERS Workshop.

This Week in the THINKERS Workshop


I'm going to reiterate what I included in last week's newsletter, just in a different order. :-)

First, we need your help!

We are always looking to improve the THINKERS Workshop to make it more useful to you. So we created a short survey to get your feedback. Click here to take the survey.

And ... for all the iPhone users out there, we have a new version of the THINKERS App ready for testing! If you want to be a beta tester, install the app TestFlight and then click this link. (Instructions here.) 

Second, remember that the THINKERS Workshop exists to help you!

Make sure that you check out our series of mini courses that feature short videos explaining key concepts for better thinking.

One mini course in particular is called How to Create Habits for Better Thinking.

There are currently three video lessons in it, with more on the way. Here are direct links to the lessons:
 


If you are already a member of the THINKERS Workshop, you can access those video lessons at any time. And if you have questions or ideas for follow-up lessons, please leave a comment on the lesson itself (or reply to this email).
 

***


The THINKERS Workshop costs $99 per year to be a member. If you own a THINKERS Notebook, you get full access for free. (If you do own a notebook but haven't activated your free access yet, reply to this email and let me know. We'll get you set up.)
 



Now on to this week's links ...

Pay attention to the negative impact of your fear of regret


But why are we so easily manipulated? Regret is a highly important emotion that evolution equipped us with to facilitate learning. Without regret we can hardly learn from our mistakes. We need this painful stimulus to avoid repeating the same mistake again and again.

But the way our brain processes regret and determines the level of pain we experience is counterintuitive: missing a bus by one minute triggers more regret than missing it by ten (regardless how long we expect to wait for the next bus). Similarly, a decision to depart from the status quo that later proves to be wrong triggers more regret than making an unwise decision to remain within the status quo.

It seems that actively taking a decision to change something creates a false impression that the decision does not qualify for mitigating circumstances, making the punishment we inflict on ourselves through regret more severe.


Read: A fear of regret can lock us into bad relationships, jobs and habits – here’s how to break free (The Conversation)

Beware of the hidden biases that get mixed in with regret avoidance


Samuelson and Zeckhauser expect that a parent would feel more regret about leaving a baby alone than taking the baby in the (much more dangerous) car because it is a strong social norm not to leave a child unattended. Making decisions contrary to norms which result in bad outcomes have been shown to create more regret than bad outcomes where the decision was in conformity with norms.

The Norms Theory of Regret was proposed by Daniel Kahneman and Dale Miller in 1996 and states that regret occurs when a bad outcome occurs that causes the person to think about what could have happened differently. This is called counterfactual thinking and people think about counterfactuals more when they violate their (or society’s) norms.


Read: Regret Avoidance: A Key Factor in Decision-Making (The IFOD)

The impact of loss and control


The bottom line is that people feel more regret when they lost something but feel like they had the control to make a different decision.

To a certain extent this is part of the fear of loss which I will talk about a lot more. But fear of loss manifests in many different ways, and this is just one of them.

Even though the end result is the same, learning that we could have made more money, but that we messed up, made a mistake, and sold at the wrong time, feels worse.


Read: How trying to avoid regret changes our behavior (The Team W)
 



Quote of the week


"Regret is the worst human emotion. If you took another road, you might have fallen off a cliff. I'm content."

-- William Shatner